Hydro One customers in the Thunder Bay area are looking for answers and hoping for refunds after numerous rural residents have seen huge spikes in their electricity bills.
Terry Young, from Stanley, says the electricity cost keeps going up, despite extensive renovations he's done to make his farmhouse more energy-efficient.
About three months ago, he received a bill for more than $1,300.
"It was sort of grab your chest and fall on the ground a little bit ... I mean at this point it's just my wife and I in the house,” he said.
“How can we possibly be using that amount of hydro?"
Up until about three months ago, their bill was closer to $900, Young said.
The couple have done energy-efficient renovations at their house, such as putting in vapour barrier, new insulation, new windows, and installing programmable baseboard heaters.
Nevertheless, their electricity bills continue to mount.
"At this point we're probably almost double to what we were 14 years ago, despite all the improvements we've made."
Taking steps to improve
Hydro One acknowledges that a new computer system has caused problems for customers and the utility said it's fixing them.
Spokesperson Tiziana Baccega Rosa said the utility is working on rectifying issues with a new customer handling system implemented last May. They have since trained and hired more agents to deal with “technology issues” and customer service concerns.
Hydro One acknowledges some customers aren't receiving bills or are receiving multiple bills.
Baccega Rosa noted people’s higher bills may not be a system error, however, as this winter has been one of the region’s coldest in 20 years. Those persistently low temperatures are affecting the bills of customers who use electric heat.
But Hydro One bills are still going up for some who don't use electricity for heating.
The president of the Royal Canadian Legion in Kakabeka Falls said she was shocked when she opened January's hydro bill.
"Our Legion bill jumped by about $500,” Mary Majbroda said.
“And for us, that's a huge amount."
Majbroda said she's especially puzzled because the Legion uses gas, not electricity, for heating — and there were few events in the building between mid-December and January.
She’s hoping for a refund.
Meanwhile, Terry Young said he doesn’t mind paying for the power he uses, but he noted close to half of the bill is a delivery charge.
"I'm kind of astounded that our delivery charge is such a large percentage of what I'm being billed for,” he said.
Baccega Rosa said delivery costs are higher in rural areas.